Friday Freebie: Meet the Pack 2013

In honor of the start of football season tomorrow for our alma mater - I'm sharing a free template this month based on a page I made with photos taken at Meet the Pack day a few weeks ago.

I decided to use a shot of the stadium as the focal point and added lyrics to the school alma mater overtop. The bottom photos were taken during the autograph session and at our house with the sign we picked up for our front yard - This is our State.

The template features 9 layers including photo masks, journaling and the title & outline. It's free for personal use only.

Click here to download Season Opener template


Have you missed one of my previous digital freebies? Click HERE to find them. And, don't forget to subscribe to my feeds so you won't miss future freebies!


#BacktoSchool with Mabel's Labels

It's back to school time and that also means time to label all of your child's belongings. Mabel's Labels is a fun & easy way to do just that. Dylan is still in preschool, but we are labeling like crazy from his clothes to his nap mat.

A few of the summer camp activities he's enjoyed the past couple months have included taking something extra to school. We've been using the personalized Sticky Labels to ID these - a flashlight for "camping out" day and a container with fruit to share during a lesson on gardening. For the fruit, I chose to send it in a plastic, inexpensive container we had on hand and smacked the label right on.

Mabel's Labels are dishwasher & microwave safe as well as waterproof. After "fruit day," the container came home and I tossed it straight into the dishwasher with the label on. When I pulled it out, the label looked as good as it did when I first put it on. Several more uses of the container; temperature change from sitting in the cabinet to storage in the refrigerator to washing & drying in the dishwasher. It still looks perfect.

And then, I had one more thought. This is a 'junk' container, but what if it wasn't. Will the label remove ok? Remember, this is after weeks of use and dishwasher runs. I pulled at the corner and, sure enough, it peeled off easily and cleanly. You can't tell where the label was. Nice!

I'm definitely pleased. If you're looking for a fun & easy way to label your child's belongings for back to school, Mabel's Labels is the way to go.

Can't decide on a single product? You don't have to. Order the Ultimate Back-To-School Combo. It includes 40 Skinny-Minis, 50 Tag Mates, 16 Shoe Labels and 2 Teeny Tags.

Note: a set of 40 Personalize Sticky Labels were provided to me for review. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.


Lowe's Build & Grow: the story of 2 Disney Planes

We love Lowe's Home Improvement hands down. It's always been our "go to" for home DIY needs especially now that we're in the foreclosure house (always something new to fix here!). It's also a North Carolina company and that just makes it feel more like home.

In the spring, after reading about the successful Lowe's Build & Grow experience for Allison's son who's about 6 weeks older than Dylan, we decided maybe he was old enough and we would start going. It's been a father son thing and the boys have gone to most of the Build & Grow clinics this year starting with the Croods projects.

No secret to our family, friends and blog readers - we also love Disney. When we learned this summer there would be 6 Build & Grow Disney projects, we marked our calendars. We even warned friends ahead of time that Dylan's 4th birthday party would be at the same time as a Saturday build and to register for the Sunday one.

The Build & Grow clinics this month featured Dusty and El Chupacabra from Disney/Pixar's latest movie - Planes. For the first weekend, Trent signed Dylan up for the Sunday clinic. It would time perfectly for when I had to be a baby shower so off we all went on our way to a fun afternoon. The boys arrived just after 2pm and the line was long. Trent even texted me to say he'd never seen so many people. They patiently waited in line for 20 minutes. Anyone with a 4 year old knows what a feat this is. When they got to the front, they were told the kits were all gone. He was offered the two Toy Story kits from July that he had already done. Trent accepted as they had come all that way and Dylan wanted to build something.

Dressed for the event and all the Dusty kits were given away.

After I learned of the situation and came home, I commented on Instagram how we were disappointed. We know it's a free event and offered as a perk to customers. There are no guarantees. But we had also pre-registered and had learned on a previous visit speaking with an employee that there are 100 kits per day - 75 allotted to pre-registered kids and the other 25 for first come, first serve the day of the build. Often they even had leftover.

Lowes contacted me back via social media and asked me to email with details and contact information. I did. The initial email was pretty generic "sorry" and noted the store manager would be asked to contact me. He did call the next day and apologized saying that he was sorry Dylan didn't get the kit. The turnout was far higher than usual - customers came from other parts of the county because their stores filled up so fast. He offered to call other stores and even check with corporate to see if a kit could be found. Both the manager and I were skeptical one would be.

After a week and having not heard back (nor calling myself, I admit), I assumed it was lost cause. We had registered for the Saturday morning Build & Grow clinic this past weekend and arrived 20 minutes early to ensure we didn't have a repeat. We were the 5th or 6th family in line. The boy in front of us looked about the same age. He and Dylan showed off their apron patches to each other as we waited. The boy had the Dusty patch and Dylan matter of factly said, "I did not get that one." Simple as that. He remembered but didn't seem bothered.

New signage and a completed plane at the El Chupacabra build.

While we waited, I noticed signs stating that the Build & Grow would open promptly at 10am and only those registered would get kits until 10:15am. Trent said the signs had not been there before. At 10 the Build & Grow opened, an employee checked our forms and marked us off a list as we went in. Dylan happily got his El Chupacabra kit, built it and then we headed off to buy a few items before heading home. I thought about asking just in case a Dusty had been found, but figured if I hadn't heard back from Lowes by now, the kits were most likely all gone and to just let it be. I was pleased they had heard me out and the new signage plus list checking clearly showed changes had been implemented.

So excited the only shot I could get of his big grin is a blur!

We came home, had lunch and then noticed the answering machine. Imagine my shock to get a message from an employee at Lowes saying they had found Dusty kits and had been looking for us that morning! Apparently we were in and out of the Build & Grow so fast, and my failure to actually ask them, that the employees didn't find us. I called back, found out who we needed to see and Dylan & I returned to Lowes where we were apologized to again and given a BIG box with the Dusty kits. My boy was overjoyed! I was dumbfounded as I looked into the box. I honestly never thought they would find any.

Before we left, we stopped at the kids' build kits by the registers and picked up a small child's hammer to purchase. When we got home, Dylan quickly started on his Dusty plane in our garage. He and Trent later played with Dusty and El Chupacabra racing them all around the garage while I worked on my latest DIY project.

Building Dusty and "flying" Planes in the wind of the fan

All I can say is ... thank you, Lowes! I don't know how & where the kits were found, but we are appreciative. There really couldn't have been a happier outcome.


20 Questions at 4

It's been a month since Dylan's 4th birthday and since I asked him the same 20 questions I asked last year. Then he was only interested in answering 11, but this year he happily answered them all. I loved hearing the answers. He totally melted my heart when he said I was his best friend.

Original idea pinned from Reaves, party of four.

Supplies: Elementary kit by Karen Funk; Mellow Alpha (tape) by Robyn Meierotto; This Week brushes by Karla Dudley.


The Art of the Brick

We learned about The Art of the Brick during a visit to the Children's Museum of Alamance County back in the spring. I was excited the exhibit is finally here and open. We spent part of a very rainy day on Saturday in Graham viewing the many sculptures by Nathan Sawaya.

I selected a few of my favorite photos for a simple, clean lined page to add to Dylan's scrapbook. My favorite photo is the one of him (on his toes!) peering up at the guy looking as his reflection in a pool of water. But the best moment was when he spotted the Hugman sculpture (before we did) and ran over for a closer look.

The Art of the Brick combined two loves for all of us - Legos and art. Inspired, we spent a good part of Sunday playing with and organizing Dylan's Lego collection.

See the above photos and a few more in my Art of the Brick set on Flickr.


Fire Truck Parade

Last weekend we headed downtown to see the Fire Truck Parade. It was part of the South Atlantic Fire Rescue Expo that took place at the Convention Center and, while a relatively short parade, it was perfect for a 4 year old in awe of fire trucks and all big vehicles.

Supplies: More or Less collaborative kit from Pixels & Co; A Little Beachy kit and Fly Away with Me elements by Sarah Sullivan; Dude mini kit by Robyn Meierotto; Spring Freebie Collection by Just Jaimee; Sunny Days kit by Karen Funk.


ModCloth Home Decor

ModCloth has added a new Home Decor Collection offering fun retro decorative pieces & unique gifts. A few of my favorites are the Instant Installation Photo Stand, the Lampersand light, and Shelf Expression.

I think I might have to get at least one for my craft room. See the entire Home Decor Collection here . What's your favorite item?


Quick & Easy Gift Bag Tag

I might have procrastinated a tad in wrapping a gift for my sister-in-law's baby shower yesterday. I went first to my box of wrapping paper and found 2 appropriately styled rolls. Then couldn't find a box. Oops.

Next I pulled out my box of gift bags. I have a habit of keeping any and all gift bags ever given to us that still look nice. I will re-use them in a heartbeat. Waste not want not. Reuse, recycle. All that good stuff. Amazingly, in the midst of lots of "baby boy" bags from 4 years ago, I found a nice, gender neutral baby gift bag that fit the blanket I made.

And, of course, in my procrastination, I realized that I actually didn't have any pre-made baby cards (need Valentines, Halloween or Christmas? I've got those covered and then some). Thank goodness for ample paper crafting supplies. I grabbed a bit of white cardstock from my scrap drawer. Trimmed, folded and punched the edges. Added a simple giraffe stamp. Handwrote a note inside. And - voila! - done.

Simple, sweet and a nice personal touch to a re-loved gift bag.

Supplies: white cardstock; Fiskars edge punch; Fox & Friends stamp set and ink by Stampin' Up!


Where's Waldo?

Last month, Waldo was all over the Triangle as part of Find Waldo Local. We spent a rainy Saturday (and slightly nicer Sunday), visiting local shops in search of Waldo and getting stamps in Dylan's Find Waldo Local Passport. We started at Quail Ridge Books and Great Yarns then headed off to other areas. During our two day adventure ...

We had cupcakes at The Cupcake Shoppe, dinner at NoFo at the Pig and popsicles at Locopops.

We played at the train table at Logan's Trading Co and picked up a few new plants (do you see Waldo in the photo below?).

The nice employees at Unleashed made his day by letting Dylan re-hide Waldo after he found him.

At the end of our searching, we turned in Dylan's Find Waldo Local Passport. He was one of the first 100 and received a coupon toward a Waldo book and an "I Found Waldo" sticker. He was thrilled.

The search continued throughout the month of July and wrapped with a party at Quail Ridge Books on August 1st. We missed the party, but were excited to receive a call that Dylan won a prize - a gift certificate to Mobley's Shoes! It's a local store we've never visited, but definitely will and soon. Many thanks to all the local stops that participated. Our family had a great time exploring some new to us & some favorite shops around Raleigh searching for Waldo. We will be marking our calendars for the next Find Waldo Local in July 2014.


Updating the Garage Door

Knocking items off our "to do" list - the latest was updating the garage door. It's a big, blank white rectangle of blah. Before we even closed on the house I knew I eventually wanted a garage door with windows, hardware and a nice white arbor above. The simplest and cheapest of those items was to add hardware.

I had done some quick searching online and expected to pay around $20. An easy & inexpensive way to update the garage door. Imagine my thrill when we were browsing at Home Depot and found a display of garage door hardware on clearance for $3.50! Needless to say, a package went straight into our cart.

As all projects around this house seem to be, this too was a family affair. I marked the holes, Trent drilled the holes, I screwed on the pieces and Dylan helped supervise. It took us maybe 15 minutes? So add "quick" to that "easy & inexpensive" update.

Eventually, we would like to replace the door with a nicer decorative one (and get those windows I want!). But for now this one functions fine and looks much nicer with it's new hardware. Another step toward making this foreclosure our home.


Four-esta Celebration

Skippyjon Jones has been a fixture in our house for the last few years. We have almost every book including an autographed copy of Cirque de Ole and a loved plush Skippyjon. So when I came across an idea on Pinterest for a Skippyjon themed birthday party last year, the Four-esta Celebration planning began. I based the party on 2 books from the series - the original Skippyjon Jones and Skippyjon Jones & the Big Bones.

I created the invite in Photoshop using a scan of Skippyjon from Cirque de Ole and, of course, a mix of Spanish words. Skippyjon frequently mixes a bit of real and made up Spanish in conversation during his adventures.

Balloons to welcome our guests, updated Subway art and mini cupcakes.

We decorated around the house with the Skippyjon books, hanging sewn birthday banner in the kitchen, a couple of sombreros, Dylan's dino garden on the kitchen table and a new succulent garden & burlap table runner (I made using an old coffee bag purchased at The Scrap Exchange) in the dining room.

New succulent garden and easy DIY burlap table runner.

In the backyard, the playset and several soccer balls were ready for play as we lucked out with gorgeous July weather. It was a little humid, but no where near as hot as it had been (or rainy - it's been a very wet summer!). I had a little surprise waiting for the kids in the sandbox - a "fossil dig." They each got to take one dinosaur fossil home as part of their goodie bags.

Dinosaur "fossils" uncovered in the sandbox.

While the idea of a nacho and/or taco bar sounded fun, I decided it wasn't quite fitting with our 10am party time. Instead we stuck with the successful party food combo we used for the Cars party (minus the cute "Cars"-esque names) - Chicken Minis & fresh fruit from Chickfila, cheese cubes and, the one new idea, popcorn (inspired from Allison's son's party in June). A mix of confetti corn from a local popcorn shop and home hot air popped corn.

Confetti & hot air popped popcorn, colorful juice boxes, and mixed fruit.

And, of course we had cupcakes. Mini cupcakes - my "go to" party size for the small crowd. Dylan picked out the '4' candle when we were shopping for supplies. I made all of the cupcake toppers in Photoshop, printed, punched & added toothpicks. I had planned to make the mini cupcakes too, but as the party neared I realized I was short on time and needed to let go of a few responsibilities. A few packs of mini cupcakes from the local grocery bakery the day before and we were set.

Mini cupcakes with DIY cupcake toppers.

After the cupcakes settled. We gathered the kids for the piñata. It was hanging high in our two story foyer and gathering lots of attention all morning. From the start of the Four-esta planning, I knew I wanted a bumblebee piñata. In the original book, Skippyjon battles the Great Bumblebeeto as part of his imaginary adventure. He "pops" the Bumblebee and jelly beans come spilling out. It turns out, he accidentally damages his own bumblebee piñata his mother had for his birthday. I did initially looked for one to buy, but struggled to find a look and price I liked. So, instead I got my DIY hat on and made one the old fashioned way - balloon, newspaper, water, flour, tissue paper and pipe cleaners.

The Great Bumblebeeto DIY piñata. 

I decided I wasn't too fond of the idea of the four and under crowd swinging a bat in my house so I made it a pull string style. The kids managed to pull all the losing strings before finding the winning one and - oops! - the bit of tape I used to keep the trap door secured while I decorated it stayed shut. They pulled so hard the piñata fell! It was hilarious. Thankfully, the kids were happy to let me pull it open and start shaking out the small bags of jelly beans for them to grab.

Jelly Belly beans in little bags from the Container Store.

I chose small, handled goodie bags this year so each child could pick one and add their bag of jelly beans & dinosaur fossil. Finding a pack of bags at Michaels with a rainbow of colors that matched our party was pure luck. Inside I had prepped each with a small wooden maraca and a bookmark Dylan & I made.

Goodie bags with wooden maracas and DIY bookmarks.

The bookmarks started from Dylan making a watercolor painting. I then trimmed the paper to 8.5x11 and printed the bookmark layout I had created in Photoshop onto the back of the painting. I finished them off with laminating. Each one is completely unique from the next. A simple "book related" gift to tie in with our book themed party.

The final touch, was Dylan's birthday shirt. I failed to get a good photo of it the day of the party (or since!) so thanks to my mom for the following photo taken just before the piñata fun started. Wanting to stick with our theme, but do something a little bit different - I created a cactus '4' for his shirt using Eric Carle fabric I had in my stash.

All in all, it was a lot of fun! Thanks to all our wonderful friends who joined us in our celebration! Until next July ...  :)


Luray Caverns through the eyes of a 4 year old

We headed to Virginia after Dylan's birthday to celebrate with family and Dylan spent last week there on his own with my mother & stepfather. One of their many adventures was a trip to Luray Caverns.

Posing for Grama before the tour
Earlier in the month, I finally found our old point & shoot that I had been looking for to take on our Disney trip back in May! Having since replaced it, I gave the old one to Dylan who was quite excited. I packed it for his trip and was happy to see he took several photos in the Caverns. Here are a few, non-edited except to downsize and add my watermark:

If you're ever in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Northern Virginia, I highly recommend a stop to see the beauty of the Caverns in person.